Natural number

A natural number is a number like 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, … which can be used to represent the count of an object. The set of natural numbers is \(\mathbb N.\) Not all sources include 0 in \(\mathbb N.\)

Natural numbers are perhaps the simplest type of number. They don’t include negative numbers, fractional numbers, irrational numbers, imaginary numbers, or any of those complexities.

Thanks to their simplicity, natural numbers are often the first mathematical concept taught to children. Natural numbers are equipped with a notion of addition ($2 + 3 = 5$ and so on) and multiplication ($2 \cdot 3 = 6$ and so on), these are among the first mathematical operations taught to children.

Despite their simplicity, the natural numbers are a ubiquitous and useful mathematical object. They’re quite useful for counting things. They represent all the possible cardinalities of finite sets. They’re also a useful data structure, in that numbers can be used to encode all sorts of data. Almost all of modern mathematics can be built out of natural numbers.

Add a “formalization” lens with the Peano axioms. I recommend at least one page with just the raw Peano axioms (and very little prose), and another gentler introduction sort of like http://​​​​29glDrR and http://​​​​29nKYAL, albeit more to-the-point and probably without going all the way up to non-standard number territory.



  • Mathematics

    Mathematics is the study of numbers and other ideal objects that can be described by axioms.